Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BASE Camp - Day Two+

The theme for today's BASE Camp experience was care for God's creation. We returned to Stockton Street to help our friend Steve with a community park he has built and we have returned to year after year to assist with landscaping, dredging of the pond, painting, and general cleanup of the area. Steve has built a little oasis of peace in the middle of one of Baltimore's poorer neighborhoods, but it's a sizable task to maintain the property. There is a pond, which includes a masonry structure topped by a cross and water fountain, many, many trees and bushes and open space. But it's a quiet, peaceful place nestled just a stone's throw away from the bustle of Pratt Street. This is our fourth year working this property and it's something our group has taken a sense of pride and ownership about. Even our "newbs" jumped into the project with gusto, and were rewarded with a walking tour of the area which included a visit to Hollins Market and then snowballs from a streetside vendor on the way back (featuring four - count 'em, FOUR - delicious flavors to choose from... grape, strawberry, banana and egg custard). Tommy noted the providential nature of our snowball stand visit - after a discussion of snowballs and sausages at Hollins Market we bought snowballs from a vendor that was using a sausage machine to grind the ice. God has a sense of humor as well as tying things up neatly with a bow.

As always our youth dove in with enthusiasm, clearing and trimming shrubs, repairing masonry and painting walls that have been damaged by graffiti. Steve feels it important to share God's Word with all who visit the park, and the nearby walls are another way of getting that Word out. The artists in our group loved re-painting the walls and adding new verses to those we've painted in the past. They even were able to demonstrate their creative side on one of the walls. We also finished our work on Poppleton Street, and look forward to tomorrow when we'll tackle the big lot at the corners of Pratt and Mount Streets.

We met many, many new people today, and the one thing that has been particularly exciting to see is the boundless enthusiasm of our young people. They have worked hard while maintaining a good humor, have gone out of their way to meet and greet the local residents of the community, and displayed humility in accepting the "Thank Yous" for the fine work they've done. One of our young people was told today by a resident that they are so grateful to have us come there and help them once again have a community they can feel proud of.

Our young people have been models of prayer, justice and love in all they have done these first two days. As we chanted "Veni Sancte Spiritus" to open our evening prayer I couldn't help but be moved by their young voices singing as one, asking for the Holy Spirit to be with us this day and throughout BASE Camp. Their youth is a gift. Not just to the community of South Baltimore where we do our work, but to all of us. They ARE Christ present among us, and like Christ they are (in the words of Walter Brueggemann, from our closing prayer) "giving gladly... giving in abundance... giving in joy... giving as he gave himself up for us all."

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